SDSU grads cap commencement with wedding proposal

Two students who fell in love during study dates at Love Library have big plans after graduation.

Friday, May 10, 2024
Mariam Zaki shows off her new ring after saying “yes” to biology major Elias Meamari’s marriage proposal
Psychology major Mariam Zaki shows off her new ring after saying “yes” to biology major Elias Meamari’s marriage proposal at the College of Sciences commencement ceremony on May 10, 2024. (SDSU)

San Diego State University’s commencement ceremony closed the book on undergraduate studies for biology major Elias Meamari, but a tiny box he kept clutched in his pocket held a symbol of what he had planned after graduation and for the rest of his life.

Moments after Friday morning’s ceremony, Meamari asked his girlfriend Mariam Zaki, a psychology major who took part in the same College of Sciences ceremony, if she would marry him. 

She said yes. 

“I'm very nervous and excited,” Meamari told SDSU NewsCenter before the big day. It's a good time for me. I get to graduate and also make the love of my life my fiancée.”

The couple adds “Aztecs for Life” to a long list of things they have in common. The first of many were discovered last spring during what they now refer to as “study dates” in the appropriately named Love Library. A booth table on the third floor set the scene for their budding romance.

“We would sit on the same couch and just kick it, and study, and talk a lot most of the time, rather than study,” Meamari admitted.

Soon, their first official off-campus date was on the calendar. Meamari secured Zaki’s preferred Starbucks order before picking her up and heading to Kate Sessions Park for a picnic. Meamari couldn’t remember exactly what her favorite drink was, so he narrowed it down to two and acted as if he had ordered the drink she didn’t choose for himself.

The park’s grassy hill and panoramic views inspired comfortable, relaxed conversation. Devotion to family, a shared purpose between Meamari, who is from Syria, and Zaki, born in Iraq, ended up being the reason the heaven-sent first date couldn’t continue.

“Sunset was coming, and then, of course, her mom calls her and we had to end it short and go back home,” Meamari remembered. “But she promised me we would do it again at the end of the week.”

Classic moms.

Ensuing dates followed the same relaxed theme. Movie nights and series binging became a shared hobby for the couple. And as if we needed further evidence of the persuasiveness of a young man in love, Meamari eventually became hooked on one of Zaki’s favorite shows, “The Vampire Diaries.”

It wasn’t long before the couple was trading “I love yous,” and by the six-month mark in their relationship, Meamari knew he couldn’t ever let go. Fast forward to Spring 2024, he started devising a plan to pop the question. Commencement would put them in the same place with both of their closest family members present, and there would be an audience of thousands. As far as Meamari was concerned, it was the perfect stage.

“It's rare to get a couple to graduate at the same exact time, same exact day. So I wanted to make it a little more memorable for us,” Meamari said.

From there, Meamari began reaching out to commencement organizers for permission. Considerate of the weight of the ceremony for around 1,500 of his student peers, he had to find a calm amid the madness that would allow the couple a minute of undivided attention, but not seclude them from their families in the crowd.

The couple’s loved ones watched from the stands as graduates were called to the stage, aware of what was to follow. Cheers awaited the couple as they crossed the platform, surely, but what the arena heard when their names were called were two roars amplified by excited family members in attendance. It’s an effort Zaki will undoubtedly admire when she looks back on her husband-to-be’s plan for the perfect proposal.

Once the ceremony came to an end and the graduates were dismissed, it was Meamari’s time to shine.  The toughest part of this day’s mission may have been reuniting with Zaki amid the sea of students filing for the exits. He quickly got her on the phone and told her one of the biggest, and most life-changing (and hopefully his last) lie of all time.

“He kept telling me to meet him by the ramp because he lost his ID,” Zaki said, replaying the moment for TV cameras minutes after saying yes. “And I told him, ‘There’s no way for me to get there, we should just meet outside.’ But he was insistent on us going over there. So when we got up [on stage], there was obviously nothing there.”

Meamari, guided Zaki, alongside organizers, up to the stage under the guise that he had somehow dropped his ID when walking across the stage to accept his diploma. 

The couple slowly made their way to the center of the stage. The mic at the podium briefly picked up words from Zaki who was still unsure what she was doing on stage. 

She took a glance up at the sea of emptied chairs, and when she turned around, Meamari was in position: on one knee, arms extended offering a jeweled ring sparkling under the arena lights for all to see.

What Meamari said will remain private, but the hundreds of students and commencement guests, including the couple’s families, saw enough from the loving embrace that followed to know Zaki said yes.

“I was a little bit [suspicious] just because my friends were acting weird,” Zaki said after catching her breath and wiping away joyous tears. “They wanted me to get my hair done and my makeup done, and I was like, ‘It’s just a graduation, it’s nothing crazy.’ So I had my suspicions.”

“She loves a lot of attention,” Meamari said sarcastically, sharing a laugh. “I thought this would be the most amazing opportunity. It’s her last day of college and all her friends and family are here. I thought it’d be easier to play off than on a different day.”

By now, Meamari and Zaki had given enough time to cameras and strangers and took their first steps as an engaged couple en route to an emotional reunion with friends and family. Soon they would be toasting to everything the couple has accomplished on campus, and to all of the accomplishments waiting for them in their future.

Zaki is a medical assistant at a dermatology clinic and has hopes of being a nurse. Meamari works with Scripps Research and plans to continue working there while pursuing his master’s degree, possibly at SDSU. So, maybe this couple hasn’t had their last “study date” in the Love Library, after all. 

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